So you’ve declared a climate emergency: what next?

This latest report from UK think tank the NPI looks at what councils can do in the wake of declaring a climate emergency.

This report for APSE is intended to help councils across the UK decide what actions to take in the wake of making a climate declaration. By March 2020, 282 authorities had made such a declaration. The report is not aimed at those who are way ahead and sure what they are doing but at those who are just starting out and not sure at all. The research behind the report, carried out in late 2019 and early 2020, has three parts to it. Web-based research is used to paint a headline picture of the declarations of 268 councils who had declared by the end of November 2019. Interviews with officers and members from 10 councils across the UK provide both detail behind these numbers and a sense of the stories that councils are telling themselves about what they are doing and why. A review of the leading literature on the science of climate change and on the policy recommendations for the UK create the context. Our main findings from this report are: Informed by scientific evidence, the contribution of local reductions in emissions can be significant, and should be actioned as soon as possible. A cut today is better than the same cut tomorrow and is worth as much as a large cut later. The priority should be to begin cutting emissions as soon as possible, rather than worrying about how to eliminate them altogether. Councils ‘own operations’ are a good starting point. Progress is being made in reducing the emissions from buildings and assets, preparing residents for a move away from fossil fuel heating systems; in environmental matters from waste and resources to public realm services; in planting trees and land management strategies; and in EV infrastructure and fleet, including hydrogen developments. By adopting a local leadership role, and taking urgent action on climate change councils are able to demonstrate to residents some more immediate local benefits, including fuel poverty through greener, cheaper energy, improvements to air quality and public realm. It is no part of this report to judge what individual councils are doing, either those we have spoken to or those we have not.

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